Tuesday, April 18, 2006

E-40 - My Ghetto Report Card

In their quest to unveil more and more new talent to their viewers, MTV recently referred to Vallejo legend E-40 as a "new artist". Odd, considering his discography of 13 years and 10 albums and all (including a greatest hits record). Perhaps it's their prior blatant ignorance of the Bay Area's hip hop scene in general and E-40 specifically, as they've never really played his videos, except recently on MTV Jams when they played "Rappers' Ball" from his album Tha Hall Of Game, which they labeled as "Tha Hall Of Fame", totally missing the intended pun. Or perhaps it's because the public ain't been hit with a 40 track like "Tell Me When To Go" f/ Keak Da Sneak since... well, ever. Not to knock his past singles or collaborations with the likes of Fabolous and Nate Dogg, but with a whole (hyphy) movement behind him, 40 delivered their anthem. The true testament as to whether 40-Water's newfound hype will last lies in whether album #11, My Ghetto Report Card, has got the goods or not.

After utilizing the production ability of Lil' Jon for a track a piece on his last 2 albums, E-40 has joined up with Jon's BME Records imprint for this release, in exchange getting 8 beats from the dude who isn't blind yet wears sunglasses inside. Working with Lil' Jon is a good change of pace for 40, in the same vein as Kanye West piecing back together Common's career off the floor, on some "I scratch your back, you scratch mine"-type shit. Working with a creative personality like 40 (a far cry from the Trillville's and Lil' Scrappy's he's used to) allows Jon to pull some new tricks from up his sleeve, on the aformentioned hit single as well as "Muscle Cars" f/ Keak Da Sneak & Turf Talk, the electric guitars on "She Say She Loves Me" f/ 8Ball & Bun B, and the Billy Squire "Big Beat" drums on "White Gurl" f/ Juelz Santana & UGK. Not to be outdone, regular E-40 producer Rick Rock produces most of the remainder of the album, and arguably makes for a bigger share of the album's highlights with tracks like the opening banger "Yay Area", which turns a snippet of Digable Planets' classic "Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like That)" (the anti-hyphy, if you will) into a bouncy track, "Gouda" f/ B-Legit and "They Might Be Taping", 40's cautionary ode to wiretapping.

The album doesn't really hit a snag until over halfway through, when we're presented with "U & Dat" f/ T-Pain and "I'm Da Man" f/ Mike Jones (good lord) back-to-back, two Lil' Jon productions which are rather formulaic and sound stale in comparison to the rest of the album; they're not necessarily bad as party tracks (well, Mike Jones' contribution is), but limit E-40's versatility and style. Later on, tracks like "Just Fuckin'" and "Gimmie Head" are about as tame as their titles imply, representing the misogynistic tradition of Bay Area rap that dates back to the early days of Too Short; lyrics like "It feels like I'm in your pussy when you're sucking my dick" may not be for everyone.

If the hyphy movement blows up outside of Cali, My Ghetto Report Card will be heralded as the national introduction of a fresh sound into a rap game choking on normalcy and routine. If not, it's still one of the year's most impressive releases, and one of 40's best releases, up there with '95's In A Major Way, '96's Tha Hall Of Game, and '02's Grit & Grind. And actually, the hyphy movement staying exclusive to the Bay might be the best idea, as some just don't understand the whole idea of "ghostridin' the whip". However, I'm hopeful that thizz dancing catches on, at least amongst pro sports mascots.